Book Review: Henry Ware Lawton | HistoryNet MENU

Book Review: Henry Ware Lawton

By HistoryNet Staff
7/26/2017 • Wild West Magazine

Henry Ware Lawton: Union Infantryman, Frontier Soldier, Charismatic Warrior, by Michael E. Shay, University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 2016, $29.95

The long careers of a handful of 19th-century military figures spanned eras, either changing with the times or becoming agents of change themselves. The United States produced its share of such men, and Michael Shay’s subject, Henry Ware Lawton, is a classic example. Born in 1843 and raised in Fort Wayne, Ind., he entered service at age 18 with the 9th Indiana Volunteer Infantry at the outset of the Civil War and was promptly selected as one of Company E’s three sergeants. By 19 he was a captain, and for repulsing two Rebel assaults outside Atlanta on Aug. 3, 1864, he later received the Medal of Honor.

Over the next three decades he served throughout the West under Lt. Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie, in the Red River War of 1874, the Powder River campaign of 1876 and the Ute wars from 1879 to 1881. He might be best known for his role in the pursuit of Geronimo, and the author’s incorporation of Lawton’s letters into the narrative reveals both the hardships he endured and the delicate diplomatic balancing act he had to perform between his superior, Maj. Gen. Nelson Miles, and Lieutenant Charles B. Gatewood, his chief liaison with the hostile Chiricahua band. It finally bore fruit with Geronimo’s final surrender after a climactic personal meeting. “I want to meet the American commander who has followed and fought me so long and once surprised me in my camp,” Geronimo requested. On meeting Lawton, he reportedly said, “You are the only white man that ever tired me out.”

Lawton later served in Cuba and the Philippines. This bio was long overdue.

—Jon Guttman

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